DJ drawing comparisons to Tiger after latest win

By Rex HoggardMarch 27, 2017, 12:41 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Comparing any player with Tiger Woods has always been patently unfair. Only history and Jack Nicklaus are playing the same game when you consider Woods at his best.

That matrix hasn’t changed regardless of Woods’ continued inactivity or the ever-growing cast of would-be world-beaters. But as Dustin Johnson put the finishing touches on another seminal week any alternative comparisons ring hollow.

Since winning the U.S. Open last June, Johnson has won six of 17 starts, including the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in dominant fashion. That’s a 35 percent winning clip that includes a major and three World Golf Championship keepsakes to become the first player to claim all four WGCs.

Jason Day’s tear through the fall of 2015 and spring of ’16 is a fair comparison when the Australian won seven times in 17 starts (41 percent) including a major, WGC and The Players. Jordan Spieth had a similar run in ’15 when he won four times, twice at a major, in 12 starts (33 percent); and Rory McIlroy went 4-for-14 (28 percent) in 2014-15 for two Grand Slam triumphs and a pair of WGCs.

But Johnson’s current run somehow echoes a little further than that of his contemporaries.

Maybe it’s because since overtaking Day atop the world ranking with his victory in February at the Genesis Open, Johnson has stretched his lead to more than 3 percentage points, which means he will maintain the top spot regardless of what happens at Augusta National in two weeks.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Or perhaps it’s how he’s winning, with a sublime combination of power and poetry of motion. At Austin Country Club he never trailed in 112 holes, played just five holes without a lead and saw the final two holes just twice, both times on Sunday.

But the most telling comparison to the guy in red may have been how he gutted out his final two matches with something less than his best game. It was almost Tiger-like.

“Absolutely,” said Butch Harmon, Johnson’s current swing coach who also worked with Woods from ’93 to ’03, when asked if the comparison is fair.

“He drives it great like TW back in the day. He's a good putter, not great, but good. He has learned to hit irons off tees which I've been pushing for seven years, and has a 3-iron with a graphite shaft that he hits miles. He really now has become the total package. As you know nothing rattles him. That is a big plus.”

To be historically honest, Woods’ run in 2000, for example, included nine wins in 20 starts (45 percent) and three majors along with a WGC high card, but that doesn’t invalidate the parallel.

Statistically, Woods circa 2000 and Johnson’s current run are two sides of the same coin. In ’00, Woods was second in driving distance, first in greens in regulation, second in putting average and first in scoring average; while this season Johnson is first in driving distance, second in greens in regulation and 11th in scoring, although his putting average is 77th.

Of course, the real test awaits in two weeks when the major championship season gets underway at the Masters. For all of Woods’ accomplishments, any legitimate similarities begin and end at the Grand Slams. But if the reaction from those who now must face the stoic bomber is any indication, there are the early vestiges – however slight – of the shadow Woods cast across leaderboards in his prime.

“He looks unbeatable,” Hideto Tanihara, who faced DJ in the semifinals, said late Saturday. “I hope he doesn't feel good tomorrow, so maybe I have a chance.”

A day earlier, Zach Johnson took a similarly light-hearted approach to what is becoming the 800-pound gorilla in the locker room.

“I'm going to start texting him tonight and get in his kitchen. I think his time is about done. Physically he's not looking great,” joked Johnson after securing his round of 16 date with destiny, which turned out to be a 5-and-4 rout.

Fake laugh, hiding real pain.

Johnson is even starting to sound like Woods, giving an eerily familiar take on his play on Sunday at the Match Play, which featured his only two matches that went the distance.

“I definitely didn't play my best today in the first match or the second. So to win both those matches not having my best stuff is definitely a positive,” said Johnson, who defeated Tanihara (1 up) in his morning semifinal and star-in-waiting Jon Rahm (1 up) in the title match. “I'm definitely proud of the way I hung in there and played tough and just tried to never give away holes.”

And then there are the foreboding self-assessments. Overtaking Day in the world ranking has only galvanized Johnson’s desire to improve and he figured on Sunday that he’s not playing his best golf at the moment.

Always one of the game’s longest players, Johnson’s wedge game is now among the Tour’s best and his putting continues to be inexplicably overlooked. He led the field at the Match Play with 554 feet of putts made and converted every time he had to make a putt, like in his final four match against Tanihara when he rolled in clutch putts at Nos. 17 and 18.

There was a time in Johnson’s career when some wondered if he had the fortitude to close out big tournaments following near misses at the 2010 PGA Championship and 2015 U.S. Open, but those whispers have been replaced by rumblings of another variety.

“He has a long way to go to be TW, but he’s on a good track at the moment,” Harmon said.

Johnson is not Tiger Woods. There may never be another player like Woods. But the hyperbole of the comparison peels away when you study Johnson’s record over the last 10 months. It is by any measure Tiger-like.

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.